Friday, April 29, 2016

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge – Have you been there?

 “I have lived here all my life and didn’t know this place was here!” is a common reaction that Ranger Chavone Richardson and her colleagues often hear from new visitors at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
The Wildlife Refuge is managed by the National Park Service and is part of Gateway National Recreation Area. It is composed of the open water and intertidal salt marshes of Jamaica Bay. It is also one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the Northeastern United States and one of the best places in New York City to observe migrating species. More than 330 bird species have been spotted here in the past 25 years, which is nearly half the species in the Northeast. It is also a haven for 72 species of butterflies.
The Wildlife Refuge also provides habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna, both marine and terrestrial. It is a prime location for diamondback turtles and horseshoe crabs (there is an annual Horseshoe Crab Walk on Sunday, May 22nd at 9AM). The primary diet of the Diamondback terrapins include fish, snails, worms, clams, crabs and marsh plants, many of which are abundant in these marshlands.
There are approximately 21 Osprey platforms in the Jamaica Bay area. A big attraction is the two mating pairs that are visible: one nest off of Cross Bay Blvd and another within the refuge that can be viewed from the Visitor Center on a high powered telescope. “The male ospreys arrive at the nest first and tidy it up in preparation of the female’s arrival” explained Ranger Chavone.
The Refuge used to have two large freshwater ponds. Like the rest of our area, it was affected by Superstorm Sandy. The West Pond was breached and was overrun with salt water. There are plans in the works to repair the breach, dredge the pond and restore It to fresh water. Eventually, the native wildlife and flora will be reintroduced. The East Pond remains is still fresh water.
There is a wide variety of ranger and partner-led programs offered year-round at the site, including presentations on seasonal wildlife, sunset tours, hikes, boat trips, family programs and an annual lecture series. Last week, the Refuge held a Junior Ranger program and the children built bird feeders that they could take home.
The Visitor Contact Station welcomes visitors and is the starting point for many guided programs. It is also home to exhibits that highlight Jamaica Bay’s remarkable plant and animal life, history, and the continuing human impact on the nature of the bay. Also in the station is a gift shop, where one can buy books, hats, jackets, and a board game called BirdOpoly. If you are just curious, the rangers welcome visitors who want to come in and ask questions.
There are two trails open year-round circling the West Pond; a short trail lasting 30 minutes and a longer trail that circles the pond that is 90 minutes long. The northern point of the longer trails boasts a breathtaking view of The Freedom Tower as well as the rest of the Manhattan skyline. There are also a mix of year-round and seasonal trails along the East Pond.
The Refuge is always willing to accept volunteers. Enthusiastic volunteers were doing their good deed for Earth Day by going around the area and picking up garbage.
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is located off on Cross Bay Blvd. just north of Broad Channel, Queens. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Trails are open daily, from sunrise to sunset. The Visitor Contact Station is wheelchair accessible and handicapped parking is available. Pets are not allowed. You can get on their mailing list for upcoming events by calling the Center at 718-318-4340. For more information, visit the following websites:

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